One of the community’s most inspirational events takes place in Murrells Inlet on Oct. 5. I refer to the 2013 In the Pink Breast Cancer Awareness Walk sponsored by the Georgetown Hospital System’s Foundation Women’s Board.
The two-mile walk, which begins at the Imaging Center and winds along the Marsh Walk, raises funds for GHS’ Indigent Breast Cancer Fund and the Susan G. Komen Lowcountry affiliate. It is a day of inspiration, remembrance and camaraderie. It’s also a day when survivors celebrate their strength, their courage and the sheer delight of being here to celebrate one more autumn day with family and friends.
The Indigent Breast Cancer Fund provides qualified women care, from diagnosis and treatment through reconstructive surgery, if needed. Last year, the GHS fund provided more than 960 free mammograms and clinical breast exams, along with follow-up care as needed.
This access is critical. It’s no secret in our society that poverty and a lack of health insurance are indicators of poorer health, and the same goes for breast cancer. According to American Cancer Society statistics, breast cancer patients from lower-income areas have lower five-year survival rates than those from higher-income areas at every stage of diagnosis.
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The good news is that breast cancer is treatable and survivable, and help is available. The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control reports that women who are diagnosed with breast cancer at the earliest stage before any cancer cells have spread have a 95 percent chance of survival for five years.
Advances in diagnostics, surgery and treatment, particularly targeted chemotherapy, have improved dramatically in the last 15 years. From biopsies to breast conservation with oncoplastic techniques that preserve the shape and appearance of the breast; nipple-sparing mastectomies with simultaneous reconstruction; the administration of chemotherapy to shrink a tumor before surgery, and digital mammography, including the new 3D (tomosynthesis) mammography that will be coming online soon, GHS provides a standard of care and protocols set forth by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network. (NCCN).
That also includes a team of breast cancer surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, radiologists, pathologists, clinical trials director, physicists and oncology nurses who meet regularly to evaluate and discuss every single case to ensure seamless care. This comprehensive breast health care is accredited by the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers (NAPBC).
Regardless of the team approach to care and the support of family and friends, the road to recovery for a woman battling breast cancer can seem like a lonely journey. Your support, and your presence Saturday, will remind everyone who is touched by breast cancer -- your friends, your neighbors, colleagues and family members -- that they are not alone.
We hope to see you there.
The writer is a physician with the Coastal Carolina Breast Center.